Winter climbing destinations in southern Africa


Looking for an ice climbing destination in southern Africa? Here’s how were can help you:

  • Guided winter-climbing (ice or snow gullies)
  • Ice-climbing Courses
  • Snow-climbing courses

The southern Drakensberg and northern Lesotho have many long ice-routes and snow gullies, ranging in grade from beginner routes to the extreme. Due to the dramatic decline in the ice routes of Mt. Kenya and Kilimanjaro, the southern African routes have become the only worthwhile winter climbing on the continent. They are also very accessible and affordable to visit.  These winter routes form every year and are usually climbable from mid June till mid August. Gavin Raubenheimer has done many of the first ascents and guidebook writing of the region and knows all the areas intimately.

All winter climbing equipment such as technical ice-tools, walking-axes, crampons and boots are either provided within the course fee, or can be hired for guided ascents.

Click here for ice climbing Routes, grading system and maps.

Mlambonja CouliorMlambonjwa Colior


Guided Ice-climbing or Snow-climbing

The region has 4 distinctive areas where winter climbing takes place. The easiest and least committing area is Sani Pass in the southern Drakensberg. There are 5 documented water-ice routes within 1 hour’s hike from the top of Sani Pass. Accommodation is available at Sani Top Lodge and to get up the pass requires a 4×4 vehicle, which can be arranged on request.

Then there is Bokong Nature Reserve in northern Lesotho: There are more than a dozen water-ice routes of all grades with an easy 30 minute hike-in. Accommodation is in rustic huts right at the climbing area and there is a good tar road all the way to the nature reserve.

Giant’s Castle in the central Drakensberg is home to South Africa’s best ice-climbing and is located in a remote setting, deep in the World Heritage Site. In order to climb at this venue requires a high degree of fitness, as it is a 10 hour hike-in to base camp, located at 3000m. There is also one easy snow gully route at Giant’s Castle, which does not require such a committing walk-in and gives a brilliant 2 day trip.

Lastly in the southern Drakensberg near Garden Castle, are several easy snow gully routes, which usually require no more than a pair of crampons and a walking axe – the perfect way to get acquainted with alpine snow climbing. These routes require one and a half days for guided ascents. A half day to drive to the trail head and then a few hours to walk to base camp. The next day the climb is completed and there is time to drive home. Peak High will advise you on what venue would be best suited to your ability and ambitions. Click here for the webpage with our course prices and for course dates see our Blog page.

Peak High will guide you on most of the existing water-ice routes or snow gullies. Contact Gavin on:

Makaza Giants CastleClimbing Makaza at Giants Castle

Ice-climbing Course

This is a 3 day course where clients are shown all the skills needed to move and climb safely on steep water-ice. The course venue can either be Bokong Nature Reserve or Sani Pass. These courses are especially useful before going to climb in the greater rangers. You will learn how to climb “French Style” front-point, self-arrest, place ice protection, build snow-belays and assess objective dangers. Clients must have prior rock climbing experience. Click here for the webpage with our course prices and for course dates see our Blog page.

Click here for ice climbing Routes, grading system and maps.

Snow Climbing Course

This is a 2.5 day course and is usually held at Garden Castle, based at Pillar Cave Annex. It is primarily aimed at people who intend to climb on larger mountains such as Mt. Elbrus, Denali or Mt. Blanc. The cave is 1.5 hours walk from the car.

Day one and two is spent doing the basic skills such as self-arrest with an ice axe, moving together on a rope, snow belay methods, crevasse rescues, abseiling from snow bollards and even emergency snow-shelters.

Day three is an ascent of a major snow route such as the Mlambonjwa Coulior or Mashai South Face Gully. Participants need not be active rock-climbers to attend this course, but must still be fit and experienced at hiking in mountain areas. Click here for the webpage with our course prices and for course dates see our Blog page.

For more info on ice climbing routes and grades in the Drakensberg, or contact me on: to arrange a winter climbing trip.

Gavin Raubenheimer

Gavin is the owner & operator of Peak High Mountaineering. He is a certified Mountaineering Instructor (M.I.A.) endorsed by the Mountain Development Trust of SA. He is a NQF National Mountaineering (level 7), Cultural and Nature Guide (level 4). Gavin is a past President of the KwaZulu-Natal Section of the Mountain Club of SA. He has been involved in mountain rescue since 1992 and since 2005 has been the Convener of Mountain Rescue in the province. Want Gavin and his team at Peak High to guide you on a hike? Put yourself in the hands of the certified and experienced experts in mountain hiking, guiding and climbing. See Gavin's Google + profile